1. Allison makes a good point. He thinks that the changes in mentality will be from the masses, a sort of bottom up revolution.

    This is where this blog comes in. Every time I write on the Hill.com on nuclear related issues, I mention this board. One drop at a time.

    1. I agree. Without a rational public attitude towards radiation, nothing can be done at the top. Problem is that we are dealing with so much radiophopia that WIFI services are being shut down in schools, and warning labels placed on cellphones ‘just in case.’

      As Friedrich von Schiller said: Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens

      It’s going to be an uphill battle all the way.

        1. Generally I agree, but in this case a brute-force attempt is going to be harder than a nuanced one.

          In other words, there is a lot of ground-work that has to be done beforehand. We are dealing with ignorance and misinformation on a scale not seen since Age of Superstition (15th through 18th-centuries)where books depicting all sorts of monsters, both real and imagined, were extremely popular and the Witchcraft Act was passed to persecute those said to invoke evils spirits to torment the just.

          One aspect of the crusade against witchcraft, was the virtual elimination of cats, believed to be familiars of witches which opened the door for The Black Death, a plague carried by the fleas on rats, which were running out of control in urban areas at the time. This is to say nothing of the people put to death by fire for being thought to be witches.

          This is what we are dealing with here and it’s going to take more than a few white-haired academics speaking in pedaled vox humana tones to change this.

        2. The Black Death was in the mid-14th century, so superstition in later centuries could not have contributed to it. However, I wonder if literal “crusading” attitudes could have been involved?

          Muhammad was a cat lover and this became reflected in Muslim cultures, so perhaps medieval European cultures which defined themselves against Islam also became anti-cat as well.

          Incidentally, did Muslim cultures themselves suffer due to their anti-dog prejudice as Europeans did due to their anti-cat prejudice?

        3. I should have set my time period for the Age of Superstition somewhat wider; say from the tenth century.

  2. Good post, Rod.

    On Gundersen:

    He fails to discuss dose rates and the risks associated with those dose rates. Instead he leaves it up to his audience to try to figure out the health impact. At about 2:20 in the video, he says something like, “…but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous” (referring to hot particles). Thereby, implying it might be dangerous, which is fear mongering.

    On Allison:

    He is just the opposite. He does discuss dose rates and risk. He has some chart that shows that below 100 mSv, “…there is no radiation risk”. It sounds like his chart is based on doses from Hiroshima/Nagasaki. BEIR VII and many other sources provide details on why that conclusion is an error.

    It is also a logical fallacy called appeal to consequences, that just because you’ll take risk X for benefit A, you should also take fractional risk of X for benefit B. Just because a CT scan gives you a certain dose for a certain benefit, doesn’t mean it’s okay to get more dose for some other benefit. In fact, the FDA has an initiative to reduce medical doses (especially CT scans). Why? To reduce the risk:


    But obviously, his main point regarding FEAR is accurate.

  3. Where is Edwin Lyman, from the UCS, today now that it was discovered that the radiation hotspot in Tokyo was from a paint manufacture ?

    Yesterday he was quite loquacious in the NY times to pin these hotspots on Fukushima.

    Part of the social responsibility from a scientist is to stick to facts. He should retract his inferences publicly.

    1. I don’t know specifically what you are referring to, but you might want to read this:


      Part of the problem, which I’m surprised Allison didn’t mention is the media. Their need to sell product is a significant source of fear. Another role the media plays is the “get two sides to the story” simplistic journalism. You can see it at work in the NYT’s story. It’s much worse on T.V.

      Then there are the pro-nuclear people who use generalizations they shouldn’t. You can see that at work in the above story. We shouldn’t whitewash risks, because the general public will eventually experience the manifestation of risk, lose trust in the pro-nuclear people, and be fearful. The Japanese public “heard” that nuclear was safe, clean, emission free. Now they’ve experienced a reality that doesn’t jive with those expectations. And even after the accident, they “heard” not to worry about contamination spread. Now they’ve experienced a reality that doesn’t jive with that expectation.

  4. Thank you for posting this.

    The slides to this talk are found at the “Radiation and Reason” website you linked to, the first link up in the right side column.

    I would also like to mention that Dr. Allison has been teaching at Oxford for forty years.

  5. Rod how do you like living where the air quality is good? I certainly agree with Rod that there is a lot of junk science being spread about radioactive material blaming everything on nuke plants. Rod gets his cheap electricity from coal plants and his air quality is good now that he is not on the a belt way many hours a week.

  6. Good presentation and slides from Allison. My own numbers agree with his, so that is always a good sign!

    Bob Applebaum’s comments are very good. The logical fallacy of appeal to consequence has always been a weakness with how the industry has gone about “defending” (not educating about) radiation. It’s not a big weakness, but it is there and provides an avenue for rebuttal. Both NEI and ANS fall victim to this. Bob is also correct in the bias (and influence of such bias) that the media routinely deploys, most effectively for fear mongering and the demonization of radiation.

    My own approach for the last 20 years or so has been to look at the population doses from non-nuclear, conventional industries whose IR dose impacts on the public continuously go unregulated and to compare those with the worst case outcomes of credible nuclear events, first for spent fuel transport and storage, my expertise, and then for plants, expertise of my earlier years, based on the SOARCA work by the NRC. This demonstrates that peak and collective doses to the public from nuclear will never approach anything close (either in collective or peak population doses) to what occurs every year from any of a number of industries I have researched over the last 20 years. And regulatory, oversight, and standards groups all realize the truth of this. I have also published most of this. The BRC requested I address this over the last year and I was happy to do so.

    Now, this can be used to educate the public very effectively, but that means true education, over time. I have found the approach most useful, with encouraging results, in seminars and discussion groups, especially with those who will listen to and follow the logic – a recent example was a seminar at Georgia Tech. But this type of information cannot be used effectively in a one-and-done, hit-and-run presentation or meeting format with the general public. That can increase fear and resistance. It must be part of a real education program, over time. And in my view, it needs to be done by a group independent of ANS or NEI. The drawbacks: it needs some sugar-daddy for funding and a stable of both work horses and show horses to carry out a sophisticated business plan for focused education of the public, media, and political elements of society. That could take about 5 – 10 years to have a discernible impact on targeted groups of the “public.” It will be an uphill slog, one step at a time. I’m working on that business plan right now.

    Finally, I think the radium bottle contamination and the Cs hotspots in Tokyo are separate stories and separate incidents, but both arising from independent action by a citizen’s group.

    1. Again, in some instances there is a valid type of appeal to consequences. Such an argument would seek to show that a proposed action would have unreasonable consequences. Clearly rigid adherence to LNT falls into that domain.

      I would ask that anyone claiming a logical fallacy is occurring to provide a concrete example so that it can be analysed.

    2. Realizing that it is not the most reliable of sources, Wikipedia is often a convenient place for initial introduction to new topics. Never having claimed expertise in logical fallacies, I was unfamiliar with the notion that there is anything wrong with making decisions based on evaluating the consequences of the available choices.

      I therefore looked up “appeal to consequences” to fill the hole in my education.

      There is an interesting quote in the Wiki article:

      “Therefore, an argument based on appeal to consequences is valid in ethics, and in fact such arguments are the cornerstones of many moral theories, particularly related to consequentialism.”

      So now I know why I was confused. For me, energy decisions carry enormous ethical concerns – as do discussions that affect the ability of people to maintain control over their property without undue interference from government edicts. Taking property because it is lightly contaminated with radioactive material that gives a trivial dose is an abomination that should not be encouraged or even allowed.

      My ethical training demands that I continue to introduce the consequences of any effort to reduce radiation doses to absurdly low levels many times lower than the levels at which irreparable damage can occur.

      1. Rod, I’m going to beg your indulgence one last time on this issue of logical fallacies, which I know is way off topic. Frankly I hate the pedantry too, but I think it is important to make these points.

        First, a logical fallacy can only occur if there is a logical structure that is the attempt to infer idiomatic conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true. Rhetoric, in the sense of statements made in the course of a dialectic does not always use this form.

        Thus second, the mere appearance of the form of a fallacious appeal, or just the elements of one, (an insult isn’t necessarily ad hominem, nor is a statement of quantification always an appeal to authority) mean that a fallacy exists.

        Lastly, many constructions that can be fallacious can be valid if the requirements are met. In general informal fallacies are arguments that are fallacious for reasons other than structural flaws thus require examination of the argument’s content before they can be claimed fallacious.

        I wish people would stop using these terms unless they understand them, otherwise it is pointless noise.

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